Reconsider sugar importation plan, Gordon asks govt

Senator Richard Gordon (PNA file photo)

TAKING up the cudgels for the anxious Philippines sugar industry, Senator Richard J. Gordon prodded the Duterte administration over the weekend to reconsider a sugar-importation plan seen to backfire on Filipino sugar suppliers.

Instead, the senator suggested the government can “develop the Philippines’s sugar industry and help the farmers earn more through innovation.”

Emphasizing that “the balance must be made” to avert the need to import sugar, Gordon added: “[Dapat] palakasin ang capability at capacity ng ating sugar farmers para lumakas ang kanilang produkto at mabigyan sila ng tamang presyo na hindi naman masyadong mataas at magsu-suffer ang consumers.” [We must strengthen the capability and capacity of our sugar farmers to strengthen their product and give them the right price that is not too high as consumers will suffer.]

In a radio interview in Bacolod, the senator observed, for instance, that while there is ample sugar supply in Negros “we do not see a candy factory” suggesting that: “Dapat iyong ating sugar products, nagagamit natin para magkaroon ng value added iyong mga sugar planter natin.” [We should use our sugar products so that our sugar planters would have added value.]

Gordon also noted findings by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) that more than 50 percent of sugar production in the country comes from Negros Island.

The senator cited reports the United Sugar Producers Federation (Unifed), sugar producers had recently expressed alarm over Sugar Order 4 issued on April 5 by the Sugar Regulatory Administration, which seeks to bring in 350,000 metric tons of raw and refined sugar in the country.

He recalled that last February, Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar had defended the Duterte government’s move to allow importation of sugar, saying that the decision was based on data showing deficiencies in some commodities including sugar.

Gordon, however, aired growing concerns noting that “the plan to import such product will make the sugar farmers suffer.”

The senator added: “Hindi natin namamalayan na talagang nahihirapan ang mga tao natin at dapat iyan ay pigilan na talaga. Dapat hindi natin pabayaan ang sugar industry. Anumang bansa ay talagang pino-proteksyunan ang mga farmers ng gobyerno.” [We are not aware that our people are really struggling and that should be stopped really. We must not neglect the sugar industry. Farmers must be protected by government.]

Gordon, affirming strong support for the local sugar industry, co-authored Senate Resolution 22 prodding President Duterte “not to adopt a liberalization policy for the sugar sector in order to safeguard the interest of more than 84,000 sugar farmers and 720,000 industry workers.”

Reminding that the resolution was already transmitted to the Office of the President on November 14, 2019, Gordon said: “Ang importante diyan ay iyong work ethic at iyong trabaho ng mga sugar farmer na nagtatanim sila para makapaglagay tayo ng produkto sa market. Kung kailangang pagbigyan naman ang sugar industry na makabawi sa presyong tama sapagkat sila ang nagsu-supply ng sugar sa bayan, bakit hindi natin tulungan?”

[What is important is that the work ethic and work of sugar farmers so that we can put the product on the market. The sugar industry should be allowed to recover the right price because they are the ones who supply sugar to the town. Why don’t we help them?]

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